Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Acme Gave Me Blog Fever by Morgan Mandel

To celebrate our 3rd Birthday, please leave a comment with your email to be eligible to win a PDF copy of Killer Career.

Happy Birthday to all the members of Acme Authors Link and all its readers. I appreciate the support of my fellow members and also love it when readers come over to see what we're up to. I love it even more when I see comments! Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed our posts, perhaps gotten some extra writing tips, or at least a few laughs.

Three years ago I got the idea to start Acme Authors Link and rounded up some other writers to join me. Its name was inspired by one of the members, Rob Walker.  At the time this blog began, I had no idea what I was getting into. It seemed fairly simple to post one blog each week.

Little did I know that blogging at Acme would inspire me to activate my own personal blog, at, with daily entries, start up Mystery Turtles blog for the Hard Shell Word Factory mystery authors, which disbanded and then became a much stronger blog, called Make Mine Mystery. Then I joined Dani Greer's  Blood Red Pencil, a very informative blog, comprised mainly of editors. I've recently started another one for my dog, Rascal, called Our Little Rascal.

I can't forget to mention , my wordpress blog concentrating on my latest release, Killer Career. I have a few other ideas I may pursue later.

I blame it all on Acme for giving me Blog Fever.

What about you? Do you have blog fever, at least just a little? Maybe you write posts, or maybe you like to read posts, or both. Confess.

Morgan Mandel

Monday, March 29, 2010

Happy Anniversary Acme Authors

I’m keeping this short and sweet because my life has hit the peak and I’m on a downward rush.
Spring Fling is less than a month away! YIKES!

I have a conference to attend for my day job – before Spring Fling – DOUBLE YIKES!

Family parties - two right after Spring Fling.

Did I mention Spring Fling is less than a MONTH away!?!?

Thank You Acme Authors for letting me be a regular blogger!

Have a wonderful week, enjoy the celebration, and pray for me! I’ll need it!


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Good News, Goals, and a Giveaway

Hi All,

As the title up above says, today I'll be chatting about some good news, checking in on my goals from last week, and giving a little something away.

First, let's start with the good news! My author copies of Wild Wedding Weekend arrived on Friday! I wasn't expecting them for at least another week, so it was a wonderful surprise to see the UPS man deliver two boxes to my front porch. I immediately hustled them inside, tore them open, and happy danced around my books for a good ten minutes!(Oh and I hugged and squeezed my hubby, too!) In other good news, I was invited to be a regular at the Heroines with Hearts blog. I'll be posting there on Thursdays, so be sure to come check it out. We have a lot of great topics coming up over the next couple of months. And on a personal note, today is my anniversary. I've been married to my wonderful hubby for twelve years!

Okay, now onto those goals. Last week I was on Spring Break and wanted to accomplish a bunch of things. So I wrote myself some goals. Let's see how I did:

*Write EVERY day. I am a third of the way done with my WIP and would like to be done by the middle of next month. To be specific, let's say I'd like to do at LEAST a hundred pages. Okay, I did write everyday, however I did not do a hundred pages. (So we'll go with half credit on that one!)

*Finish up at LEAST two more interviews for my upcoming mini-blog tour in April. Yes!

*Design the bookmark for This Can't Be Love. Yes!

*Get on the treadmill three to four times during the week. Yes!

*Paint the back/kitchen door stoop white. It's been grey forever, and every time I look at it I think, "This thing really needs to be painted." As does the one small spot of grey on the ceiling of the back porch where we removed a pole when we redid the back stairs...eight years ago. No, but this one's not really my fault. When I asked the hubster to leave me paint, he told me I didn't know how to do it the right way - he is a professional painting contractor, so I couldn't get too upset with his assessement of my skills - and he'd take care of it. (I'm still waiting....)

*Have lunch and go shopping with a friend. Yes!

*Have dinner with my Goddaughters. Sort of. I didn't have dinner with them, but I did get to spend some time with them one morning. Does that count?!

Okay, so all in all, not too bad. Yes, I could have done better, but I could have done a lot worse, too. So we'll chalk it up to a successful goal week.

And now onto that giveaway...which is why you're reading this in the first place, right?...we are celebrating our third birthday here at Acme (Happy Birthday to Us!), so I'd like to give someone a present! One commenter on today's post will receive a PDF copy of my first book, This Time for Always. Be sure to leave an e-mail addy so I can get in touch with you. I'll check back in toward the end of the day and choose a random winner.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Travel and Food by Margot Justes

First and foremost, AcmeAuthors is celebrating an anniversary, we have been around for three years. Happy Birthday Acme Authors! I would like to thank our loyal readers for their continued support.

Now to travel and food. Susan Miura and I are getting ready for our 'Taste of Italy' presentations. I've been hunting for Italian delectables that our guests at the library can sample. To be sure, there are plenty, but along the way I've been paying attention to the international foods that are becoming increasingly available in our local grocery stores and I don't mean the small markets, but the large chains like Jewel and Dominick's.

Yesterday, I stopped at Dominick's to pick up a couple of items and I always look at the cheese section, (I love cheese) which by the way has grown considerably to include a separate and substantial international selection.

In the middle of the cheeses, I found fig and orange spread. I love orange marmalade and I love figs and fig jam. I picked up the tiny jar and noticed it was from Croatia, so of course I bought it, and as soon as I got home I tried it. Heaven. A little tangy, not too sweet and you can really taste the fig and orange; oddly enough the two flavors compliment each other. I have added a new favorite to a growing list.

By the way, a dab of really good fig jam on a piece of brie is delicious. Try it.

When I was in Venice last year, I tried black pasta, didn't even know it existed. The pasta becomes black when you add squid ink. You can make a black sauce or if you're making your own pasta, add the ink along with your egg and oil. Recipes are available on line. I'm still having a hard time finding the ink. If any readers can point me in the right direction-that would be wonderful.

Travel and food go really well in hand if you're not shy or afraid to try new things. If travel is not an option, check out the many international food items in your local markets. Discovery is a great thing.

Till next time,

Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Good News for Poisoned Pen Authors/ebook update

Ebook growing pains continue, and from all I can see the major publishers have decided they want to be as greedy as they are known for, wishing to set prices at the highest level they can and claiming they are checking with their authors before they make any decisions regarding Kindle or Ipad or any of the new media delivery systems.  Checking with their authors - The CEO of Random Hs. actually said they had to confer with thier shareholders and their authors-- which authors? Maybe the ones you can count on your hand who are making a huge profit and who can then assume a say-so in such maters?

Believe me, they are not contacting all their authors...certainly not their midlist and bottom list authors. They are jockeying, delaying, looking for the edge and meanwhile hoping Apple and Kindle will accept their terms.  Sadly their terms will in the end mean LESS for book sales and therefore LESS for their authors.

In a stunning wonderful move they call being FAIR to their authors, the classy Poisoned Pen Press has announced that their authors going to Kindle or any electornic format will get a 25% cut of such deals.

Perhaps in another dimension Random House and other publishers as large will follow Poisoned Pen's lead. Belly laugh insert HERE...heheheheheh...not bloody likely.

Most authors whose books have been placed up as ebooks by their publishers are losing money big time, while authors who have their rights back and placing their books up independently and pricing those books at acceptable prices to this market, within this model, are making 30% splits with Apple and 40% with Amazon, and since they are pricing their books lower, more units are being sold.  An eight dollar book sounds cheap but it will sit on the ebook shelf for a year until the price is dropped and suddenly in two days 30 copies are sold, whereas at the 8 buck price it just sat like a stone for a year. Do the math. Lower prices means more sales. 

Wish the oil industry believed that, and OK perhaps this is not true with 3-D movies where prices have tripled all of a sudden, but this is ebooks and Kindle readers and IPad users we are talking about and they have no interest in purchasing ebooks priced at 14 or 15 dollars.

Recently, I was one of many discussing the question of whether or not when talking about ebooks if it is not the SAME product, and in the end the novel and how it is written is the same, yes. But publishing an ebook does not take the gargantuan effort of publishing the paper book. There is no warehousing of ebooks, no stripping of covers, returns, remainders (although a reader can return a book, no mass returns from stores). This last business of returns has been a horrible experience for too many authors over the decades. With Poisoned Pen's move they are saying in essence why not give the author a fair share of profits; why not be magnifcent in a single gesture?  Such thinking is not likely to be followed by the big boys. So once again a good reason to publish with small presses.

I can only hope that other small preesses and medium sized publishers follow Poisoned Pen's example.  Bravor Poisoned Pen.

Finally it is our Whopping Three Year Anniversary doings at ACME AUTHORS... if you have enjoyed our being here, please leave a comment to that effect. We hope to be here for Three More!

Rob Walker
Ongoing contest to name my next novel can be found at Dirty Deeds - Mystery/Suspense Author's Advice -- google it!

Real Life Drama by DL Larson

In the last ten days, our small town has been caught in a real-life drama. One of our high school students was in a serious car accident. It happened shortly after school; she was on her way home and at a country intersection an elderly man T-boned her. He was having a stroke.

Smantha, Sami, is clinging to life. Her brain swelled to the point of surgery to remove part of her skull. And our little town held its breath, praying she would make it through the night. That was nine days ago.

She has undergone extensive surgery to repair the many fractures to her arm; she has undergone more while the doctors have repaired the multiple breaks in her jaw. The swelling in her brain became such a concern the doctors wanted to remove part of it. As a parent, I hope to never have to make such a decision. I do know Sami's family has found a strong faith in fighting this nightmare and after much anguish chose to wait on such a drastic measure.

At the same time, our library has a poetry contest each spring. We are celebrating its tenth anniversary. Our local school teachers have been intrumental in promoting our small program and this year we have dozens of entries from third grade through high school. The deadline was yesterday and it was enjoyable seeing and talking to the students and parents who brought in entries. A few teachers brought in their whole class's entries.

I read through a few high school poems and it hit me how strong words can be. It reminded me of a saying I have on my desk by Theodore Sturgeon: "It doesn't matter what you write. What you believe will show through."

Many of these students poured out their anguish and hopes for our Sami. The words are not all that polished, some don't have a good cadence, but the heart of the words are so big and deep, their cry brought tears to my eyes and I prayed for Sami to recover and join us again.

As a writer I realize words have power; our quaint little town may have all the attributes of Mayberry RFD, but boy, have our words for Sami's recovery have power. Our words, poems and prayers have reached heaven. Our wishes for Sami to recover have taken on a persona to hold her and her family up.

Sami is still in a coma; she is fighting everyday to come back to us. She has movement and stirs at familar voices. We are all praying for a miracle. If you are so inclined, I invite you to list up your words to make Sami whole again.

Thank you.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Tipoff by Morgan Mandel

When my dog, Rascal, sees me brushing my teeth at night, that's the tipoff to her that it's time to go to bed. She heads for the hallway to watch me go upstairs, where she's not allowed.

Once in a while, I brush my teeth early, try get a few things done on the computer or watch TV, instead of going to bed right away. That bothers her to no end. She already has the mindset it's time to go to bed. To show her displeasure, she'll whine, tug at my sleeve, sometimes even grab objects in the room like a piece of paper, or anything to grab my attention. Sometimes her efforts work and I decide I really would prefer to go to bed after all. Other times, I'm not ready for it and I stick to my guns. She usually settles down then and rests on her cushion.

When you're writing a book, it's fun to insert little tipoffs or hints to show the character of the person you're writing about. These tipoffs can be real or red herrings to throw the reader off.

In my debut mystery, Two Wrongs, the boyfriend of a murdered girl is on the witness stand testifying against the person accused of the murder. The boyfriend sits on the edge of his seat, steals glances at the door, acts as if he's the one on trial. Is this a tipoff as to his true character or a red herring?  That's for the reader to discover.

What tipoffs have you used, or plan to use in a book? Or maybe you particularly liked one someone else used. Please share with us.

Morgan Mandel

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

All things electronic

I've had my Kindle for a couple of months now and while it has some limitations, I like it. Mostly, I like reading USA Today and some blogs on the Kindle. I have a book or two and while some have been practical to read on the kindle, others have been more of a struggle.

One book that I'm on the fence about is "The Healthy Kitchen" by Andrew Weil and Rosie Dailey. I like being able to read it on the Kindle but at the same time, this is a book that would be nice to have in hardcopy. Could be I'll change my mind down the road as I become more adept at using the Kindle - only time will tell.

I'm definitely a fan of reading USA Today on my Kindle and even though it's not in color, I'm able to scan and read the paper and then zero in on those select articles when I get a chance on my regular computer and print to pdf if I want to preserve them for research or just plain morbid fascination. Sure beats cutting out articles from the actual paper and then trying to capture them electronically.

I just wish that the electronic version of books was more reasonable. The price points seem curious given that electronic delivery should be much more cost-effective than the actual book. It probably is but the savings aren't necessarily being passed onto the reader.

It will be interesting to see where we are at in 5, even 10 years on the issue of price.

I also purchased a netbook and so far so good. The keyboard takes a little getting use to but I like how compact it is, especially since I commute by train.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Finish What You Started (part 2) by June Sproat

On March 8th I blogged about the problems I was having keeping my attention on my current work (or works) in progress. I meant to blog the next week to follow up with that blog, but low and behold, WAD (Writers Attention Disorder) got in the way again.

While keeping up with Spring Fling 2010 stuff, I didn’t get a chance to write anything, but I did a lot of thinking. And yes, I did get sidetracked, but, and this is a big BUT, I came up with another character that fits the need perfect for my WIP!


So now I have a new character that fills in the gap I needed which was hindering my progress and creates the hero for a novella idea that would be perfect to follow the WIP.

Double YAY!

It appears that I won’t be able to shake off WAD, but I’m okay with that because once I do get back to writing I’m certain the words will flow. I just only hope I can keep up typing as fast as my brain is spilling out the story.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Good News and Goals

I had some good news this past week. My author copies for Wild Wedding Weekend were available to order! I can't wait for that box to be delivered in a couple of weeks.

To keep my mind off of the nearly-impossible-to-contain anticipation, I am setting some goals for the coming week. I am off all week (Spring Break!), so I hope to accomplish a lot. I figured if I put something down in writing and let other people see my list, it might give me an extra incentive push to actually get these things done.

So here they are:

*Write EVERY day. I am a third of the way done with my WIP and would like to be done by the middle of next month. To be specific, let's say I'd like to do at LEAST a hundred pages.

*Finish up at LEAST two more interviews for my upcoming mini-blog tour in April.

*Design the bookmark for This Can't Be Love.

*Get on the treadmill three to four times during the week.

*Paint the back/kitchen door stoop white. It's been grey forever, and every time I look at it I think, "This thing really needs to be painted." As does the one small spot of grey on the ceiling of the back porch where we removed a pole when we redid the back stairs...eight years ago.

*Have lunch and go shopping with a friend.

*Have dinner with my Goddaughters.

Now my list is set. I have my goals in mind. Check back next week to see how well I did!

Until next time,

Happy Reading! (I plan on doing some of that as well this week.)


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Stuff by Margot Justes

I normally stay away from public political comments, but the 2010 Census got to me. The TV blitz wasn't enough, because I received a postcard in the mail telling me the census is on the way. Sure enough, the census came, and a week later another postcard arrived letting me know what number to call if I had any problems.

Couldn't that number have appeared somewhere on the census form? Saving a tiny bit of money considering what we owe, would have been nice. A start.

Economic crunch? What economic crunch, it's business as usual. The unfortunate often heard comment 'your tax dollars at work' seems to apply. Well, that's my gripe for the week.

On another note, totally not politically related and goes to librarians and booksellers-the RWA Chicago North Spring Fling is just around the corner, please register for this free event. And, if you register before March 31, you'll get a lovely goody bag. So, please do not delay. Here is the link
Just fill out the RSVP form and you'll be all set.

A bit of more stuff, Susan Miura and I are all set for our A Taste of Italy presentation fir kibraries, I'm very excited about it, because I'll finally get to write my Venice travel blogs. It's a work in progress.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Friday, March 19, 2010

March Forward Past Inertia

Inertia - it is a problem when getting underway on a writing project just as it is when wanting to lay a new floor or build a bookshelf or assemble a bike. But where does it come from and why? I have a sneaking suspicion it is related to procrastination, but I suspect it is even more closely related to procrastiantion's mother and father - Doubt and Self-Doubt.  A deep-seated fear that asks us in the recesses of our mind the daming and depressing question:  Why bother?  At its worse it can be paralyzing, and at its best it challenges us if we take a blowback, angry, determined response, so that perhaps it is not so much the devilish voice in our head that keeps us from our work, but our reaction to that voice.

Frankly, as a young writer, I was told by many more adults than not that I would never be a writer, and that I should choose another career path. But Robert Frost's poem "The Road Less Taken" spoke volumes to me and said it was all right to take the path I was already on as a kid in junior high school.  I had adults in every arena of my life urging me to go into accounting, plastics, mechanics, electronics, even teaching, and I did go into teaching but with the clear discussion with myself that I do so to support my writing life. Even then in college as in high school, I ran into resistance; in fact, I was told by a professor in my first college creative writing class that I should not only drop his class but think about another career path. That I would never be a writer, certainly not a publishe writer and best I could do in his class was make a C.  That only made me more determined; I took the right attitude and took it as a challenge, and I worked diligently at craft. In fact, after college, I decided to give it a year and work at nothing else to perfect my writing. That year turned into four years...four lean, hungry years which to this day I consider my self-imposed PhD time wherein I put in the time and effort to get better as a writer and in doing so I wrote a lot of novels that garnered some thousand or so rejections from others who kept telling me I would never succeed at this business or profession or roulette wheel called a writing career.

I would not take no for an answer not even from the experts--agents, editors, publishers.  So why should I take NO and doubts from within my own head?  What did I know?  I have to convince myself each time I go forth to do a scene that I am good enough and worthy enough to be considered a novelist, even after all my successes thanks to inertia and self doubts that come I am convinced as a prerequisite to an artistic mind. We may choose to be artistic crafts-people but that does not quell or kill that doubting Thomas inside our psyche that asks in a sneer, "Just who the hell do you think you are?" and "Do you really think anyone truly wants to read a word you have to say?" and "One day someone will kick your door in and expose you for the fraud you are."

We can't give in to such nonsense; in fact, we must turn those thoughts right around to read: "I think I am a fadt, I KNOW this. And there are people anxious to hear what I have to say most assuredly. And no one can call me a fraud as I work extremely hard to make my product the best it can be, so Self-Doubt get thee behind me!  I have work to do.  And in the doing comes the joy of writing and all the negatives fade to nothing, and you are free to work thanks to your proper response to the nonsense that wants to control your sense. Don't let the devils of inertia beat you down; instead beat them down. But beware as they never ever quite go silent.

Rob Walker
Killer Instinct, first in the Instinct Series available now at
Name my Next Novel contest continues -

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Conundrum! by DL Larson

Lately I have done a few book chats for book clubs. While I enjoy talking about my novels with others who have read them, I have discovered (again) how frugal folks can be. The last book club I visited was at a senior residence. It's a large, beautiful environment and the ladies boasted they had their own library. Unfortunately they had purchased only a couple of my books and the group took turns reading the few copies. In April I have another book chat scheduled with another book club, from another town. I asked if they had enough books and the caller said they were sharing the book. As a librarian I suggested if they didn't want to purchase a book, they could borrow a few from their town library. I believe this to be the next best thing to a sale and keeps my books in circulation. The caller didn't think this was necessary. I continued to encourage her to stop at her local library any way. Hopefully she will.

I realize the economy has slowed impulsive buying to nearly nonexistent. Profit for the writer is becoming more challenging. The group I mentioned above were very enthusiastic about discussing the plot of my book Memories Trail. They were eager to take my book marks and business cards and I hope my press information doesn't end up in a junk drawer but in the hands of friends and family with a comment or two about "you should read this book."

Money for presenting seems to fall into one of those gray areas of professionalism. All too often, I'm too soft-hearted to say up front I charge for appearances. It's a sticky situation. In the last year presenting at libraries I have been paid and I appreciate that. Talking in front of small groups and book clubs I have not. Somehow I have fallen into a swamp here, wondering how to "get my name out there" and not go broke at the same time. Book clubs seem to be looking for free entertainment and a free book from the author. And of course I left a free book at the senior residence because ... because ... because they wanted one! My stash of free books from my publisher is long gone - this came right out of my pocket. I continue to believe I'm spreading my name this way, but it's difficult to believe when I come home and in my ledger I write mileage 120 miles - no payment and 1 book for $20 - no payment. My accountant thinks I'm running a charity and not a business. He's right of course. This doesn't feel like a business when I'm the only one spending money. At book signings and other outings I have my prices posted and I have tried this at book club gatherings, but it doesn't seem to work the same.

I've been spending money on my writing from the get-go; I'm not afraid to spend money in order to make money. However, in this tight economy I'm giving more than I'm getting right now and I wonder how long can I continue on this path of no-profit again today? It's become a conundrum; how can I sell my books if I'm not out promoting them? How can I promote my work if I don't receive any payment for my efforts?

Do you accept invitations without pay? Has that worked for you? Share your experiences with us at Acme Authors.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Handouts - Are You a Giver Or Receiver, Or Both? by Morgan Mandel

I'm getting organized to present a social networking program at the Niles, Illinois Library on March 28 from 1:30 - 4:30. One of the things I did Monday night was prepare a handout. Hopefully, my handout is engaging enough to make people want to stay and listen. I want to spark their interest, throw in some information they may not know, yet not tell it all on paper. They have to come to the program for that.

I like giving handouts and I love receiving them. What about you? If you go to a program, do you like to get a handout? Or, maybe you're so neat you hate to bring any more paper into the house. It's too late for me on that score. Paper's already infiltrated my home and won't leave any time soon.

What about you? Are you a giver or receiver, or both?

Morgan Mandel

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring Fling 2010 down to the wire! By June

April 23-24, 2010 Deerfield, IL

Don't miss out on a great line up of speakers, editors, agents, workshops,
book signing, and networking opportunities, all for $159. FEATURED SPEAKERS
New York Times and USA Today best-selling authors: CHERRY ADAIR and JULIA QUINN

Amanda Bergeron (Avon Publishing) Selena James (Kensington) Lindsay Faber
(Samhain Publishing) Kat O'Shea (The Wild Rose Press and Leap Books)

Paige Wheeler (Folio Literary Management) Laurie McLean (Larsen Pomada Agency)
Joanna Stampfel-Volpe (Nancy Coffey Literary Mgmt) Diana Fox (Fox Literary)


From Suck to Success
(Kim Castillo)
Rejection Bootcamp
(Joelle Charbonneau)
Author's Brand Image
(Blythe Gifford)
Can We Talk?: Discuss Your Writing with Confidence (Ruth Kaufman)
When the Manuscript's Done, the Work's Just Begun! (Marianne LaCroix, Annmarie
Ortega, Kimberly Sullivan)
Perseverance and Perspective
(Nancy Parra)
The Importance of Tea in the English Culture (Sofia Motamedi)
Online Marketing 101
(Sarah Wendell)
Writing the Series
(Pat White)
Agent and Editor Q & A
(Agent and Editor Panel)

Layer and Texture Your Novel for High Impact (Cherry Adair)
Dialogue: It's More than What You Say (Julia Quinn)
Plot or Character
(Sherrill Bodine, Patricia Rosemoor)
Deep POV - What Is It and Where Can I Get Some? (Laurie Brown)
Sex Scenes Viagra
(Elizabeth Hoyt)
Setting as a Character
(Jade Lee)
Beyond Research: Stronger Point-of-View & the Effective Use of Detail (Carrie
Conflicted about Conflict? Sign a Peace Treaty between You and Your Plot
(Lindsay Longford, Myrna Mackenzie, Margaret Watson)
Editing for Voice
(Courtney Milan)
Write Like You Mean It
(Jenna Petersen)
Getting It Done - Wrangling Your Muse (Allie Pleiter)

Friday night Pasta buffet and Chocolate Reception including area librarians and
book sellers
REGISTER On or Before 3/15/10 and be entered into Raffle for a ticket to VIP
Saturday breakfast and lunch
Saturday gala dinner including a silent auction to benefit literacy
Saturday open to the public book signing
For more information about Spring Fling 2010 and to register:
For more information about Chicago-North Romance Writers of America, please
Questions? Contact us at:

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Spring is in the Air

While I guess we can't officially say that spring has sprung, signs of it are everywhere.

Most of the snow around here is gone. Except for a few random bizarre patches that haven't melted, the grass has been revealed after a long winter of hiding out.

The temperatures are rising. Over the last week (although the weekend's been chilly again), our temperatures hit in the lower fifties and even made it into the sixties by one afternoon.

In between rain showers, the sun has actually been shining.

Tulip bulbs are starting to pop. I have a whole row alongside my house that have burst forth from the ground.

Daylight savings began today. Longer days, more light...I can't even complain about losing an hour of sleep when I look at it that way.

Best of all, spring break is a week away. I'm looking forward to a week off of work, sleeping in, getting some much needed R & R, and pounding out lots and lots of words on my laptop. If the weather holds, I might even be able to make use of the front porch!

So where ever you are, I hope you are enjoying the signs of spring!

Until next week,

Happy Reading!


Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Day At Sea by Margot Justes

Our days are still bleak, the dingy grey snow still has not totally melted, so I did the next best thing, I imagined myself back on vacation.

Surrounded by water on all sides, the giant ship glided along the waves, the water lapping steadily as we move forward. Mesmerizing. Relaxing. Blissful. All cares swept away.

The first day of the cruise was spent at sea. The early morning is best, before the multitudes wake, I have my first cup of coffee and look at the ocean. There is nothing better than the gentle breeze (sometimes not so gentle) and the smell of the ocean.

I satisfied my coffee itch, and went to the 12th deck to walk, not a bad way to begin a morning.

Having built up an appetite, (not that I have to work hard to do that) a leisurely breakfast seemed like a good idea, and of course I needed more coffee.

The delightful part of being at sea, is that you can do as much or as little as you want. There are plenty of planned activities, from belly dancing, belly flops and I'm sure other belly things, there is ballroom dancing, get the drift. But I brought books to read and a pad to write on.

The staff always on hand to bring fresh coffee, milk, whatever you need; they are continuously working. By the end of the first day, the steward knew my name and not because I was an author, (unknown) but because it is part of the training to make each guest feel at home and welcome. You know what, it worked.

Even the elevators had a plaque on the floor marking each day, a sweet reminder I'm on vacation.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Friday, March 12, 2010

To Self Pub, to POD, or to Not Self Pub or Not POD -..That is the Debate

My Guest Today is here for a DEBATE.  PA Brown's Bio is at the END of this blog.

The question we are taking up today has complicated answers.  It involves writers deciding to self publish and/or working with a POD publisher.  Does publishing one's own work have a horrible stigma attached to it, and has it spilled over into stigmatizing POD publishing as well? In short do agents, editors, readers, and many a writer confuse the two methods of publishing and is the stigma warranted or not, and in a world of labeling and assuming the a world where appearances are more important than reality, does it matter or help if an author has to stop and explain the difference between self publising and Print on Demand  Publising even to organizaions and witers groups?

To get at this complicated issue, I asked author PA Brown if she would kindly allow me to debate her over these issues as PA or Pat recently posted her feelings and impressions of what happens to an author who publishes in the manner of self publication (without separating out POD and other legit methods of publishing).  Below you find Brown vs. Walker in a friendly but firm banter over these issues.  At bottom too find PA Brown's brief bio and a url where you can locate many titles with PA Brown on the cover..

Question in the main: does producing a self-published version help or harm an aspiring writer find
 a legitimate publisher?

To be fair, PA Brown did not pose this question but it pivots on the word legitimate before the word publisher...using this adjective is what causes POD pubbed authors to see red. It assumes a POD book, novel or nonfiction is illigitimately published, that it is a 'bastard' of some sort without a  legitimate parent or publisher, when in fact PODs go through as rigorous production and editing and vetting as any other published book, and it is a separate creature from a vanity press or a purely self-published book. Unfortunately, many agents, many editors with traditional publishing houses, and many writers organizations confuse these two and prejudge PODs, lumping them in with self pubbed books.  But I am getting ahead of myself in this attempt to clarify a major difference in say a book published by a legitimate POD publishing concern and a self pubbed book.  On the one hand, the  author pays the freight, and on the other, the publisher pays costs and sometimes pays an advance.

For manay inteerested in the difference between legitimate and illigitimate it is a matter of monies put forth for the privilege of publishing the author's work. And there is the rub for many.

Now on to PA Brown's remarks which I shall attempt to respond to here for the first time in any coherent fasion as I have published traditonally, with POD publishers, and more recently as an Indie Author self-pubbing ebooks for the Kindle reader.

PA Brown says: I think any author considering self-publishing has to educate themselves thoroughly and know exactly what they are getting into and what they may be losing.

1. Self-published books that go on and sell well and are picked up by major publishers are extremely rare. You probably have about as much chance of winning a lottery.

RW Walker says:  Agreed. Rare is the watchword here, however not every author who self pubs a book is looking to win any lottery.  There are as many reasons to self pub as there are to write in the first place.  Yes if one's goal is to be on any bestseller list in this country then self pubbing will likely disappoint; on the other hand, if your purpose or goal is something else, say vindication or self actualization, or to share your story with other cancer victims...then you may just win THAT lottery via self publicaton or the separate model of Print on Demand.

Brown:  2. Will it hurt their (self P's or POD authors*) chances of getting a legitimate publisher or agent? I
would say only for that particular work. Future works would be judged on their own. It would help if you have some decent sales on the self-published book.

Walker:  Again I agree up to a point. Most certainly each project is handled as a separate item even by one's agent and once in the hands of most editors. When querying an editor at a traditonal house or even a POD house it is not always wise to discuss a work that was self pubbed but has a poor track record or no record to speak of. And so I would counsel to not speak of it while trying to interest an editor in a current projet.  Sell the one you're with. However, if it is a POD and was vetted by a legitimate small press doing PODs, and it went through a rigorous process, and you got an advance and royalties accrued, by all means, despite sales numbers, I'd toot my horn over it and the fine publishing house you worked with to present a final product, putting it in the best of terms and light.

Brown:  3. Are they (insert: the unwashed or unvetted self pubbed*) prepared to have the novel professionally edited? There is no one, even editors, who can produce a book and trust their own editing skills. I've heard from a lot of editors who will tell you that they would never dream of putting a piece of their own out unedited. 

(*Rob's Inserts)

Walker:  Agreed whole-heartedly; rewriting is writing but editing is cold, objective third party rewriting and invaluable for a manuscript. This is truly where the boys and girls are separated out from the men and women. There is a huge lot of drek published in the self pub world, more so than ever with the advent of online ebook pubbing going on where anyone with a PC can set up shop now and become an Indie Author as I have, but it is sorely needed here--this thing we call vetting nowadays. Has the book or novel gone through a rigorous editing process by a professional editor such as a retired NYC editor or a person with a long history in the field?  A process that again pivots on payment, money changing hands, or in the case of legitimate small publishers whose processes may not hinge on advances but are just as rigorous as any NYC publishing concern or traditional publisher. Often these same publishers have seen their books win awards on top of awards.  My Five Star publisher is a fine example as is my wife's publisher, Krill, Poisoned Pen, Bleak House, Midnight Ink, Echelon with whom I have also published. Again big difference between a vetted POD novel and a purely self pubbed novel that has had no professional editing.  By the way, there is and always has been a great deal of tons of drek published via traditional publsihing as well. Stuff I would not line my bird cage with.

Brown:  4. Will you pay for a professionally designed book cover? Like it or not, book covers sell books. Your book can be the best thing since the Gutenberg bible, but if people think the cover looks like something their ten year old could do then no one will look past that.

Walker:  I agree that book covers need to be competive with the large houses that have whole departments devoted to cover art/design, and the generic covers offered up by lulu, smashwords, wordclay and other online publsihing outlets 'suck'. This is an area where the author does need to either get a GIFTED ten year old to do a professional looking cover or pay out some bucks.  There are many graphic designers willing to take your money to produce precisely the look you want or need. My son does all my ebook covers and Five Star used his cover design for Dead On.

Brown:  5.Realize that while Amazon may sell it for you, it will be next to impossible to get any bookstores to carry it. Libraries are unlikely to take your book and there are very few reviewers who will take on a self-published book.

Walker:  Self pubbed, PA is right, so right about book stores and libraries carrying self pubbed but not so with small press, not entirely.  In fact Five Star only targerts library sales. That is thier niche market. But again this is not self pubbing, so I will defer to PA on this and agree.  On the other hand, Amazon's relatively new Kindle Store and Kindle ebooks program at is a great, great boon for authors who have nowhere else to turn if they wish to re-release an out of print title that happens every day in the world of traditional publishing.  Authors such as myself who have this top-heavy list of titles dating back to 1979 can and are seeing a resurgence of interest in their work, finding a new audience in young readers who were not yet born say when my 11-book Instinct series was in print.

Other authors that I know who sold their 10th book and had 9 rejected ones before it but have confidence in those 9 have also become highly successful Indie Authors via Amazon/Kindle.  The benefits here go beyond self-aggrandizement and self importance as it begins with the best money split in a publishing contract I have seen in publishing anywhere, wherein the author is highly valued as a partner and not the last man on the totem to be paid a decent wage.  What Pat is talking about is old news - some fourteen year old kid self-pubs on his blog his massive four hundred thousand word science fiction epic. This Kindle program is a new day for professional authors whose descripts, cover art, reviews, and reputations sell the books.  But to be fair, Pat's speaking of first time authors who decide to go Kindle, and yes, they do have an uphill battle indeed but it affords them some sense of belonging and being while they wait the two or three or ten years to find an agent or an editor on the roulette wheel of traditional publishing where luck and happenstance play as great a part if not MORE than talent; in fact Amazon ebooks are more likely to display raw new young and old talent than are traditonal houses these days who have thier top ten play lists.

However, again so much depends on how hungry a writer is for fame, money, or recognition of his work -- what he or she is shooting for as in the stars or as in a sense of self worth.  Where on the scale of goals do your dreams properly fall or completely fail and disappoint you? Complete disappointment in your self pubbed book or even a POD or a Kindle can be bleak as hell, depending on what sort of expectations you had for the book which are?

Brown:  6. Realize that all selling and promotion will be on your head. Yes, I know a lot of publishers do that now, but even so, they can usually get your book into catalogs and in front of booksellers. And they can distribute it.

Walker:  I have worked with over 10 or 11 publishers, mostly traditonal with advances and money changing hands or "legit" houses and while I got the occasional ad here and there, once in the New York Times on a Monday deeply embedded, and in the catalogs, ninety percent of the fifty or so times at the trough, the book was pubbed without a shred of promotion, yet I found it entirely on my head. True distribution is the greatest selling point for mass market houses as they have a lock on it in most cases, but even then after the initial excitement of seeing your book in every major box store, bam come the returns period and almost as many of those distributed unpromoted books rush back to the house as stripped copies like a riptide and it was fun while it lasted, and your royalties suffer badly, and next it is the remainder table at Costco and The Book Barn.  I have never seen a remaindered ebook but they can be reduced in price; they can also be increased in price. But there are NO returns that play havoc with your royalties.  In all the ebooks I have sold on Kindle, I believe I have seen three, maybe four returned (no doubt due to language, sin, sex, violence or mistaken identity); none of the riptide stuff. There is a freedom and a sense of empowerment that comes too with publishing the Kindle ebook - if it fails, you can accept the condemnation, accept that it was on your head, your choices, your title, your pricing, your pub date, your promo efforts or lack thereof.  With traditonal publishing, believe me--while you were not consulted on all these matters, and it took nine months to two years to see print, it is your fault when the riptide occurs--it MUST be the writing and it MUST be the author's fault.

Brown:  7.As a self-published author, you will also be fighting an uphill battle to have people take you or your book seriously. A lot of people are going to look at it this way: if no one would pay you to publish it, then it can't be any good. Whether that's true or not, the fact is that there are a lot of very bad self-published books out there and every fiction reader knows that.

Walker:  In traditional publishing you have to battle to get people to take you seriously. Even though some major publisher has laid out a tidy sum to put the work on the market, readers do not CARE who pubbed it and most do not pay attention to whether the words Random House is there or Midnight Ink if they are caught up by the copy - the descript or the cover art, or the title and subtitle for that matter, or your quite literary sounding name in bold letters, or the crime scene tape across the bottom ala Patterson.  In fact, readers often do not care how badly a book is written so long as it catches hold of their imaginations.
But again I agree with Pat Brown regarding the fact that there are far, far too many BAD books being published in self pub world, but then too there are far, far too many BADLY written, even SAD to say AWFUL books being published in the so-called real world of publishing...some, as an editor myself, I could not recommend even to their own authors who penned them! 

Brown:  8. You have a zero recognition factor. No one knows you, no one cares about your book, or how good your book is. You alone will have to convince them otherwise, one reader at a time.

Walker:  Even the professional book jobbers who work for the major publishers will tell you that it remains a business of selling one book at a time, one unit at a time; that is the nature of the book biz. Even online bookstores sell em one at a time.  As a new author with a first book priced at 25 bucks in the real world of pubbing, guess what, no one knows have zero recognition factor going for you. You alone will have to convince strangers otherwise, one reader at a time--beginning with your mother.

To be fair, I doubt that Pat Brown had given much thought to the distinctions I have made here between the vasrious sorts of self publsihing available to writers today that did not exist even a year ago before the kindle reader appeared on the scene, when some of us were pubbling with and such places as - now a Barnes & Noble asset. Now B&N has its own eReader, the Nook--and millions have bought into both this and Kindle. There are probably more things to consider, but Pat and I for two would tell any aspiring writer to try to have your book published by traditional means by all means, as it remains the Good House Keeping Seal of Approval in all quarters, but there are now other Seals of Approval, awards for best ebooks, even best self published books, and more and more review outlets for same are popping up daily along with chat groups such as KindleKorner.

Yes by all means struggle to find a legit publisher but do not overlook the smaller legit publishers, and when you get sick and tired of the horrible game of collecting rejections, you do not have to wait for a decade or two as I did when my 160,000 too-large-for-traditional-houses-to-deal-with novel in three parts, Children of Salem, was turned down by every publisher in the known universe. Once I decided it was better off on Kindle than collecting dust in my drawer, it took me one day to publish it.  This after YEARS of vetting this Hystery-Mystery hybrid, and today it is outselling all my other books combined.  For one thing, it does not cost 25.95 but was priced by the author at 2.99 which goes up in July.

So yes, thank God we have more choices and avenues to publication than in past years when Mark Twain had to self publish at his own cost the Memoirs of President US Grant who was destitute at the time.

A final word from Pat to whom I owe a great deal of gratitude for allowing me to counter each of her eight arguments first posted on DorothyL about a month ago now.  Pat has been a great sport to allow me such sway with her words in this debate and for that I hope you will definitely go to visit her terrific website which displays her remarkable achievements and titles as she is the author of the award-winning LA series of crime novels; find my gracious guest at  and below find Pat's bio.  AND please leave your comments and questions!

Brief Bio for PA Brown: 

At age 22 I left rural life in Ontario, Canada for a place that was called a war zone by the LAPD. There were stabbings and shootings and assaults every weekend. Most of my time in L.A was spent crawling around in the underbelly of the city, trying to find new and interesting ways to kill myself, including a month or so living out of a car. I visited Skid Row, spent time on the streets of Hollywood, befriended a bartender who was killed after she went home with a customer. And you wonder why I write crime novels?

L.A. Heat grew out of those sometimes dark, always fascinating days. During the 80's I saw the advent of a terrible disease that no one understood that became known as AIDS. I knew a lot of people who died in those days. For a brief period of time, I was even a Valley girl, living within spitting distance of the famous Sherman Oaks Galleria. Do I miss it? Every day. I'm hoping to go back there next year for the next Left Coast Crime.

Then I went one better and moved to Hawaii in 1986 where my daughter was born. She's never quite forgiven me for moving back to Canada. I managed to get away one more time, this time to Bermuda for 2 years. What can I say, I keep leaving and Canada just keeps sucking me back in. But the time I spent in L.A, the land of dreams and lies,where illusion battled daily with reality, and reality rarely wins made an indelible impression on me and to this day almost all my writing is set there. I think the fact that my writing is fairly dark can also be laid at the doorstep of the City of Angels. I still immerse myself in reading anything I can find about the place, to the point that some people in my family think I'm a tad obsessive about it. But then the subject matter of my books also raises some eyebrows among them. I mean, I know lots of women write gay books, but it's all new to my family. I can lay the blame for L.A. Heat and Chris and David right at the doorstep of Los Angeles. If I'd stayed in London, Ontario I never would have come up with those two. You decide whether that's good or bad.

Once again my sincere thanks to Pat 'PA' Brown for her contribution to today's ACME Authors. I think it has been a fair fight and that Dr. Phil would approve.

Rob Walker
The latest madness - Name my Next Book Contest

Thursday, March 11, 2010

It's Conference Season by DL Larson

My mail has been full of conference brochures, a sure sign spring is coming and with it many writers conferences. I wish I could attend all of them, but time and money simply won't allow that. If you have yet to make plans to attend a conference in 2010, now would be a good time to make some plans. Listed below are a few conferences for writers. All can be found on the internet and I have posted their website (if I've pushed all the correct buttons.)

Here are a few worth looking into:

- Write-by-the-Lake Writer's Workshop & Retreat, June 14-18, 2010; University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI

-The Split Rock Arts Program, offers summer workshops and seasonal retreats in creative writing, visual arts and design through June and July - St. Paul MN

- Desert Dreams Writer's Conference, Scottsdale AZ, April 16-18, 2010

- Spring Fling 2010 Writer's Conference, Deerfield IL April 23-24, 2010. The very same conference many Acme Authors will be attending!

- Write Touch 2010: Love is Brewing in Milwaukee (I love the title of this conference) May 14-16, 2010, Brookfield WI

- Meacham Writer's Workshop, Chattanooga, TN, March 25-27, 2010 - I heard there is still room - but act fast!

- Las Vegas Writers' Conference, April 15-17, 2010

- Making Something Out of Nothing Conference - Simpsonville SC, April 29-May 2, 2010,

That's just a few I found or was notified about; there are many more in May and June. Writer's Digest Magazine has several posted as does RWR magazine. I'm sure with a bit more searching the perfect conference for you will catch your attention.

If you know of a great conference, share it with us.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Marilyn (F.M.) Meredith Has an Axe to Grind - She'll tell you about it

I couldn't help using that line in the title. It was way to tempting. (G) Seriously, I'm happy to be hosting Marilyn a/k/a F.M. Meredith on our blog today. She's a vibrant member of the mystery community, with lots of energy and talent. I'm particularly happy that Marilyn is one of the members of the mystery blog, Make Mine Mystery, but that's not all she does.  - Morgan Mandel

F. M. Meredith who also writes under the name Marilyn Meredith is the author of nearly thirty published novels including the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series, An Axe to Grind is the newest from Oak Tree Press. No Sanctuary was a finalist the mystery/suspense category of the Epic best in e-books contest .

She is a member of EPIC, Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. She was an instructor for Writer’s Digest School for ten years, served as an instructor at the Maui Writer’s Retreat and many other writer’s conferences. For over twenty years she lived in a beach community similar to Rocky Bluff.

You can visit the author online at and her blog at

Here's what Marilyn's Axe to Grind is about:

Detective Doug Milligan and his partner question suspects in the murder of a stalker including the stalker's target, her boyfriend, father and brother, as well as the stalker’s step-father. The investigation leaves little time for Doug to see his fiancĂ©e and fellow officer, Stacey Wilbur.

Stacey handles a molestation case which involves the son of a friend. She and her mother talk wedding plans, though all must wait until Doug's renter, Officer Gordon Butler finds another place to live.

When Doug disappears while tailing a suspect, Stacey sets out to find him, hoping she can reach him time.

Here's what our Axe Grinder has to say:
Why I’m Writing About a Fictional Place by F.M. Meredith

My Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series is about a police department located in a small Southern California beach community in Ventura County between Santa Barbara and Ventura. I didn’t want to write about a real place. I’ve found it easier to make up the setting because the restaurants and stores I mention won’t go out of business before the book is published.

When I wrote the first book in the series my goal was to show how the family affects the policeman on the job and the job affects the police officer’s family. When we lived in a similar beach community, our first home was in a neighborhood full of cops. We partied with them, our kids played together, and the wives and I had coffee. A few years later, my daughter married a police officer and I had an even more intimate view of the relationship of the job and the family.

Though there are on-going characters, each book features different officers and the crimes they are working on, as well as what is going on in their private lives.

Though I do try to use solid police procedure, because the town of Rocky Bluff is small, as is their police department, they don’t have all the up-to-date equipment of a larger department. Crimes are solved more by old-fashioned detecting rather than by using all the forensics as seen on most of the popular TV shows.

I belong to the Public Safety Writers Association where most of the members are linked to law enforcement in some way, so I do have experts to ask when need be. However, when I’m talking to them about my books, I always say, “Remember this is my police department and I can do it anyway I want.” The statement always gets a laugh and they are forgiving when they read my books.

One thing about writing about a fictional place, I must keep track of all the businesses I’ve made up, where landmarks are located, which way the streets go, and anything else that I might have mentioned in another book. This is as important as keeping track of all the attributes of the characters.

Sometimes my protagonists go to a real city. In An Axe to Grind, Detective Doug Milligan goes to the Santa Barbara University campus to locate a suspect. I had to do some research to find out what the part I was writing about looked like and how the campus police operated. In the same book, Detective Milligan and his partner go to Ventura. I’m familiar with the part of Ventura I wrote about.

Though Rocky Bluff is a fictional place, it seems very real to me. I can see it in my mind just as well as I can see all the real spots that I’ve visited over the years. The town is located right on the coast, though on the north side there is a bluff where the wealthier people live. Along the beach are older, small homes, once vacation spots for people from out of town, but now mostly rentals. I could go on, but you get the idea. I know Rocky Bluff as well as I know the people who live there and inhabit my books.

F.M. Meredith a.k.a. Marilyn Meredith

Please welcome Marilyn by leaving a comment below.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Taking a sick day

Actually, not only am I sick but my computer was sick. We both caught a virus.

Back next week.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Finish What You Start

I think I have WAD.
Nay, I know I have it.

My friend (Margot) and I were out brainstorming and we decided I have WAD, which is Writers Attention Disorder.

Probably not a real thing, and yes I googled it and didn’t get anything medically related. But I am sure I have it. You see, I can’t seem to finish anything lately. I have a great idea, I go at the story typing away like crazy, and then the scene ends and fades to black. I’m not sure where to go from there. How to move things forward, so I start kicking around ideas, play the “what if” game and before you know it, a new character strolls into the picture and I like them so much better.


I blame it on an overactive imagination.
No, it’s true. If I couldn’t imagine so many things going on I wouldn’t be so distracted. And that is my underlying problem. It’s like I’m five and I see something shiny so I forget everything else and go for the pretty piece. Then when I’m bored with that item I don’t want to go back to what I was doing before. Very frustrating indeed.

So, faced with this dilemma, I am going to try to not give in to my inner five year old and stick with the project. Finish what I started. Oh, I’m sure that some characters will try to creep in while I’m working, but I will give them only ten minutes of my time. Jot their information down and get back to the story.

I suppose if I get stuck in the project I’m working on, I can always kill someone off to make it interesting!

Check back next week and I’ll try to post how it’s working for me.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Real Writer

I'm feeling like a "real" writer these days. It seems like I have irons in the fire all over the place.

"Wild Wedding Weekend" comes out a month from tomorrow. I feel like I've been waiting for this one for a long time! Right now I'm in the process of creating the blog posts for a mini-blog-tour I've organzied throughout the month of April to promote the new book. I also need to order business cards with the title, cover, and purchasing information.

"This Can't Be Love" is in the final editing stage. I sent the first round of final edits off to my editor this weekend. I also updated several of my author pages at various places to include the new cover and added blurbs and excerpts.

"Family Ties" is coming along. More slowly since I've been editing the other manuscript, but still coming along. My goal is to get some pages done today. I've been writing all over the place with this one, so at some point I need to come up with more of a nailed down timeline to figure out how it's all going to fit together.

Then, of course, "real life" goes on in the midst of all this promoting, editing, and writing.

All in all, I guess I can say I'm keeping busy!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Blog by Margot Justes

I have completed by travel blogs, and will post soon but as the saying goes life interfered with my plans. My daughter came home for a long weekend and we're spending time together.

In the meantime, I have regained full rights to two short stories I have written and plan on putting them on Amazon and Kindle, as soon as I figure out the how and why, etc...

The best advice I have found is from Joe Konrath, he has an amazing web site where he shares his vast marketing knowledge with his readers and offers terrific advice to authors who are part of the weird world of writing, advertising, promoting and everything else needed to get the name out there, wherever out there is. Joe is a master. I plan to use his his advice, thanks Joe.

The other thing I have done is hook up with author Susan Miura (introduction by Amy Alessio, thank you Amy)to do library events 'A Taste of Italy' is all set, proposal finished and submitted to many libraries and we have three gigs so far.

The Italian program includes tasty treats from Italy, pictures, (of course I have pictures of Venice and Murano) discussions on travel and our writing styles and how they relate to travel. I'm hoping at some point to include Paris.

In the works is 'A Taste of Mexico'.

For now, I'm going to prepare breakfast and spent some time with my daughter.

Till next week,
Margot Justes
A Hotel In Paris

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Judging Contest Entires in Fiction - What Could go Wrong? Find out from Rob Walker's Guest, Kenneth Weene

My guest today at Acme is Kenneth Weene, author and judge of a recent fiction contest whose experience at doing so is eye-poppingly eye-opening.  Kenneth  is the author of Widow's Walk and his upcoming  Memoirs from the Asylum.  A New Englander by birth and disposition and trained as a psychologist and minister, Kenneth Weene has worked as an educator and psychotherapist. Ken’s poetry has appeared in numerous publications – most recently featured in Sol and in Spirits. An anthology of his writings, Songs for my Father, was published by Inkwell Productions. His short stories have appeared in Legendary, Sex and Murder Magazine, and The Santa Fe Literary Review. Ken’s novel, Widow’s Walk, has recently been published by All Things That Matter Press. A second novel, Memoirs From the Asylum, is scheduled for release this spring. Now in semi-retirement, Ken and his wife live in Arizona. There Ken has been able to indulge his passion for writing and enjoying life. For more information about Widow’s Walk visit:

Rob Walker                                                                      
      Awarding Points – Notes on the Experience of Judging Fiction
                                                   by Kenneth Weene

Recently I had the privilege of judging two categories for the Arizona Book Awards. Categories are groupings like children’s books, young adults, suspense and mystery, general fiction. To be eligible for these prizes, a book must meet at least one of three conditions: the author lives in Arizona, the publisher is based in Arizona, and/or the action takes place in Arizona. Because of these three strictures, there are seldom any “big name” authors or books to dominate the process. So it becomes an opportunity for the small guys, even the self-published, to be noticed. Sadly, it is also an opportunity for bad writing to be noticed. I saw lots of it, and I have a few observations I want to pass on – observations that I hope will make your next book a better read and therefore a better seller.

First and foremost, I was appalled by the lack of editing. An editor is important for a number of reasons.

No matter how well you did in English, you will have difficulty seeing your own little errors, those errors in homonyms, spelling, punctuation, contractions, and on and on. I make those mistakes, too. A good editor is an extra pair of eyes to catch such mistakes, and he is particularly geared to look for them.

The second reason your editor is important is that she is making sure that what you have written makes sense, that it communicates what you want to say. And, of course, she is making sure that you are communicating in a way that will keep the reader’s interest. She is doing that part of her job when she questions a word, a phrase, sometimes an entire sentence or more because it just doesn’t sound right. A good editor is a careful reader.

At the same time, your editor is trying to make sure that you haven’t somehow changed the voice of the narrative, for example I have a tendency to slip into the all-knowing voice in which my narrator tells the reader too much of what the character is experiencing or, even worse, where things should be going. While he is looking for consistency of style, your editor is also looking for inconsistencies of facts. Perhaps there is a reason your heroine is able to hike so far with a prosthesis that would hinder most, but that reason doesn’t work if the reader has chapters earlier learned how much that darn stump hurts and interferes with the heroine’s life.

Finally, when the galley’s come back, your editor is again a treasured extra pair of eyes for that last proofread.

Of course, no matter how good an editor you have, she can only do so much. Ultimately this is your story, your creation. It is up to you to write something that another person, other than you nearest and dearest, will want to read. That takes some skill. I don’t believe that we all have the makings of a great novel in us. Writing is a craft, and like any craft the skill needs to be honed and practiced. I won’t repeat all the basic advice, for example “show us don’t tell us,” or “active is better than passive.” Instead, I want to focus on a few simple stylistic points that I found particularly important reading the Arizona Book Award entries.

First, let me tell you something very deflating. How much you know is not important to the reader. Yes, I know, Tom Clancy teaches his readers lots about submarines, or cyber-crime, or whatever; but he’s an exception with a very specific reading public. More importantly, what he teaches us is always relevant to his story. Explaining why your character has chosen a Glock over a Smith-and-Wesson is usually only your narcissistic need to show how much you know about handguns. Look over your manuscript; if you’ve done a lot of teaching, consider writing nonfiction.

Be sure your reader knows what she needs to know, which means you have to know it, too. If there is a medical condition at the heart of your story, don’t wait till the end of the book to make the reader aware of it or at least of the clues of its existence. For example, make sure that somebody notices the bags under that character’s eyes and their hair loss before you reveal that he had severe hypothyroidism. You want your reader to go away having been surprised but not feeling blindsided. The blindsided reader doesn’t give you good word-of-mouth.

Make sure you know what you need to know even if you aren’t going to explain it to the reader. For example, if you are using music references in your story, make sure you’re picking pieces that are appropriate to whatever you want them to do, set the mood, give a clue, or indicate something of personality. In the book I’m currently writing, I am using chickens. I knew very little about chickens, but wanting them in the book, I did some research. I hope my readers will never know how much, that they will simply experience the chickens as part of the story.

Next, I want to say something about style. People read books, especially fiction, to enjoy them. The writing should flow in such a way that the reader can find pleasure not only in the plot but also in the use of language. Sentences should sound pleasantly to the ear and characters’ speeches should give the feeling that real people are talking, even if those real people use some unique colloquialisms and speech patterns. Long convoluted sentences and big words may make you feel good, but they won’t hold the reader in your thrall. Work on your writing style. One of the best ways is by writing poetry. It helps you to think about the way words will sound in combination. Another way is to share your writing with others who like to write. I regularly attend a writing group in which we share and discuss each other’s work.

If you want the reader’s experience to go with the flow of your writing, be sure to remind him a few times along the way in case he may have forgotten something or someone. The more characters you use and the more subplots you explore, the more important it becomes that you give those little memory boosts. Nothing frustrates a reader more than having to go back looking for earlier references to a character who has suddenly popped into the story. In one book I read for the competition one of the characters had two names. Because the character was a Native American, the use of these two names made some sense, one for use within the tribe and one for the white world. What didn’t make sense was the author’s use of one name and then of the other before later telling the reader that it was the same person. If this had been intended to create confusion for another character, it would have been fine. However, it didn’t make sense in this novel because the character who was referencing the two names knew she was referring to the same person; only the reader was left out. Part way into the book I had to think about these two supposedly separate people and integrate them. Frustration time!

Style is also about how you present yourself as an author. Part of that is in the narrative style you employ. For some reason, many writers feel that their narrator, especially if the book is written in the first person, must be a wise-ass. I guess those writers see it as an opportunity to tell the world how funny they are. Typically it doesn’t work, especially if the author feels compelled to crack comments about small things that are not integral to the story. Remember that your readers need to care about your protagonist; even if he ends up being a bad guy, you still need them to care enough to want to know what’s going to happen. It’s hard to care about a character who doesn’t know that he’s trying too hard, especially when we know that he’s going to be around for the entire book. Such a wise-ass character-narrator always makes me think How long is this book going to be?

Presenting yourself as an author is also implicit in your choices of typeface, cover art, author’s picture, forward, dedication, comments on the back cove, etc. Pay attention to these details, especially if you are self-publishing. Particularly, make sure that the typeface you choose will look like a book and not something done on a typewriter. Make sure that your title sounds interesting and different. Don’t over-explain. Your readers, other than family members and the like, don’t really want to know why you made those choices and picked those events. They want to be taken along in the flow of your tale not informed about your personal history.

If there is one overarching message to be taken away from these notes it is – Don’t be too wrapped up in yourself. As a writer your first obligation is to the reader. With that advice, I wish you the best of writing and the joy of reading.

Please do leave a comment and my heartfelt thanks to Rob Walker and the entire Acme family for inviting me.

Who's Reading What On Vaction by DL Larson

Last week my husband and I spent our time in a tropical paradise, Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic. It wasn't our first visit to this beautiful country. We loved it so much we decided to go back again this year. We weren't disappointed. The bumpy roads have improved a smidgeon, the folks are still amazingly friendly and wanted our American dollars very much. We took a few excursions ~ a truck safari to a cocoa and coffee plantation, and then a catamaran trip where much dancing and rum drinking took place. We suffered through it admirably.

While relaxing on the beach and later at the long winding pool, I took notice of what other vacationers were reading. On any given day I heard a half dozen languages being spoken and was pleased to see readers among every nationality. I was surprised to see only one e-book being used during the week. I searched every day to see if this 'new' way of reading was as wide spread as I keep hearing. One, that's the total for the week at a resort where hundreds of people stayed.

Hardback books were not a strong showing either, although I did see as many as five on any given day. The paperback won the Gold Medal for readers. It's no surprise and reassures me the paper book is alive and well.

Each day I mozied through lounge chairs checking out titles and authors on the many paperbacks. I tried to take mental note of who the favorites were, but I blame the rum for confusing my tally, so I will say mysteries probably won the Gold, but it could have come down to a photo finish against the romance genre.

I'm always surprised how quickly I devour a book when not trying to dissect it or edit it, but simply enjoy the story. I raced through the two I brought with me, and then traded them in at the book exchange at the fresh towels stand. My next read was a mystery suspense, a classic really, by Ed McBain (Evan Hunter) called "Killer's Wedge," first published in 1959. I was disappointed in the plot, the problem was I didn't believe the feasibility of the characters. It's a cop story and the cops acted like wimps. We were watching the Olympics while on vacation, so I have to say "Killer's Wedge" did not take home a medal.

Back to the towel stand and a new book I grabbed what I knew would be a fun and fabulous read. I'd been wanting to read more from this writer but had never gotten around to it. This book was published in 2005 with the title "Julie and Romeo Get Lucky," a spinoff from her bestselling book of "Julie & Romeo." I laughed out loud only a few pages into it and my husband wondered what was so amusing. "You gotta read this book!" I said, laughing again. I was on page six. By page twelve I had the giggles.

Julie, the main character, owns a flower shop, has a houseful living with her, a daughter, son-in-law, a grandson, a pet cat, and an eight year old granddaughter who is obsessed with winning the lottery. She's busy, she's devoted to her family and in love with Romeo, her competition in the flower business. She's sixty-three years old and sneaking around with her lover as if she was sixteen. She's a character I could read every day and not tire of her. Jeanne Ray wins the Gold for best book I read during my vacation.

I enjoyed our days in paradise and the respite it offered, plus the chance to read for leisure. Julie & Romeo are characters that linger after the book is done. Do you recall any characters like that? Share with us.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

In Person or In Space? Or Both? Which do you prefer? By Morgan Mandel

I have to admit there's a certain thrill when I'm asked to sign a book at a signing or other event. It's kind of an affirmation that I've made it. I'm really an author.

Of course, there's also that downside, if someone says they've never heard of me. To those people, I usually mention that's why I'm there, so they'll get to know me.

I try to get used to the ones who walk real fast in the other direction so they don't get stuck talking to me or, heaven forbid, buy my book. I'm only human. It does bug me, no matter how I try to ignore it.

Book signings, panels and in-person presentations can be fun or not, depending on expectations and what actually happens. They're a way to get my brand and books out to the public, though not usually to that many people. Still, word of mouth is a good thing. I never know what may come of one person telling the right other person about me or my books. Many times I'll meet someone who'll present another avenue of promotion.

Though I'm excited to appear at book signings and presentations, I have to admit my most often avenue of choice for promoting is In Space, aka The Internet. I can reach lots more people online than in stores, libraries, fairs and other places. Also, I don't have to get dressed real fancy to do it.Although through experience, I've learned to deal with the public, I've never been an extrovert. It's so much easier for me to communicate by writing than by talking. Also since I'm a lousy driver, I don't have to get someone to take me anywhere on the Internet. It's something I can handle myself.

I have to say there are good and bad points about both and I use them both, but my Internet presence far outweighs my physical presence at promoting my books and brand.

What about you?

Morgan Mandel